In 1959, a road was built from Kuching, the state capital of Sarawak, to
Padawan on the Indonesian border. This road facilitated an increased flow of
people and commodities between the villages of the Padawan area and
'urban' centres. Soon, mission schools and wage labour followed, and as rice
gradually shifted from the centre to the periphery of most people's lives, the
path was made clear for the first conversions to Catholicism.
This thesis explores processes of religious change through discussions of the
motivating factors behind conversion and by exploring how the adoption of
Catholicism articulates with the lifeworld as it was before baptism. Although
this research focuses primarily on Kampung Gayu and its offshoot villages,
the analysis presented here contributes to a growing body of literature on the
anthropology of conversion.
Dominant themes from studies of Southeast Asian kinship are drawn
together to show how these can effectively enhance an understanding of
religious change: particularly by exploring relatedness, sociality and
incorporation. Furthermore, the notion of 'fluidity' provides a conceptual
starting point from which the analysis explores 'ethnicity' and the production
of locality, power and 'potency', house form, and work, ritual and the
economy. The thesis demonstrates how a broad range of theoretical interests
are implicated in the study of 'conversion'.